January 6, 2011

Despite injury, Pagan remains hot prospect

SAN ANTONIO --- A traumatic knee injury that short-circuited his senior season at Asheville (N.C.) High School hasn't done anything to hold down the recruitment of highly regarded defensive end prospect Jeoffrey Pagan.

And being here in San Antonio around all the players in Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl at the AlamoDome isn't doing anything to deflate Pagan's spirits. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

"Yeah, most definitely. It just makes me want to work harder and get back faster," said Pagan, who arrived in San Antonio Thursday and quickly donned his No. 2 All-American jersey. "I go in (for therapy), I stretch, I do a little weight, do the bike, I get massaged and things like that. I'm doing just mobility-type stuff. Getting it back moving and getting my kneecap back in place.

"I'm spending about nine hours a week [in rehab]. It's pretty intense. I leave physical therapy and then go straight to the gym, working on upper-body stuff. Trying to stay in shape."

According to Pagan, he's doing more than merely trying to stay in shape. Reports from doctors who repaired his torn ACL and MCL in mid-November have been encouraging, he said. So, too, has the chance to still be in San Antonio though he obviously cannot participate in Saturday's game.

"It means a lot [to be still welcome at the game]. This is such a big organization and it meant so much for me. I was really looking forward to playing in it, and even though I couldn't, it still means a lot that they would have me down here to get to spend time with the guys and get all this free stuff. I enjoy it," he said. "(The knee) is coming along well. The doctors say I'm ahead of my time. They say that I'm getting well a lot faster than I projected. So it's doing well.

"I'd like to be ready, to the start of the summer, around May. That way I can get into spring ball and things like that."

With visits set up to Clemson, Alabama and Tennessee, in that order, before signing day, Pagan will have a busy calendar even after he leaves San Antonio. He unofficially visited Knoxville for the Tennessee-Alabama game in late-October, and Pagan has been impressed by UT's coaches --- most notably head man Derek Dooley.

"Tennessee is a great, beautiful school and I can't wait to get down there and have my official. Coach (Chuck) Smith, and Coach Dooley came by my house. (Dooley) has talked to me quite a bit," he said. "Just real humble. (Dooley) told me that he really needed me. I felt like he was sincere about everything he was talking about. He's just a great guy."

And though he had long been committed to Florida, myriad factors led to Pagan re-opening his recruitment. Now he's just enjoying the process and seeing most schools stick by him despite the tough injury.

"It's great that I still get to go around and look at these schools and hang around the same people that I was with before. I committed, but right now it's just a great time for me," Pagan explained. "Not necessarily (has any school stopped calling). Everybody that's been there for me before my injury is still there now. It was real quick. Right after my injury, I heard from everyone. Everyone wished me well and hoped I got better soon."

The third-ranked strongside defensive end in the country, No. 36 overall player and No. 2 player in the state of North Carolina prior to his injury, the 6-foot-4, 272-pound Pagan said he intends to make his decision at Asheville High School Feb. 2 on national signing day.

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